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 By SCOOP

07/05/2005  2:37PM

Recently rediscovered historical article, part of a series. Scoop will be posting one per week for the next several weeks.For a printable version, go to 'The Mine' section of this website.

MINES AND MINING—Activities in the ore districts of the Southwest
Oct. 24, 1909
Bonanza find at Forest City
South fork finds Alleghany veins’ extension?

Grass Valley (cal.) Oct. 22- The discovery of Bonanza ore in the South Fork mine in Forest city is considered one of the greatest strikes ever made in this district, and if the vein ultimately proves to be the great Tightner ore body, as everything indicates, it will mean the development of a giant property. The South Fork is owned by Los Angeles people and work has been moving ahead for several months under the management of Fred W. Kuhnfeld. The tunnel has been crowded ahead for over a mile and several promising ledges intersected. But the last find is far and away the greatest ever made in this section. The extent of the vein is still undetermined but it is known to be several inches wide with very high values. The ore is identical with that found in the Tightner and other Alleghany properties, containing free gold and arsenical sulphurets. Forest is just across a range of hills from Alleghany and it is considered that the strike in the South Fork demonstrates that the veins of Alleghany strike across the hills to the Forest district. The management is pushing development and, if the find continues to show as well as at present, shipping will soon be under way, the same people are developing a number of other claims in the district, with encouraging results.
The Rainbow mine at Alleghany recently cut a bonanza shoot and is sending out high grade. It is reported that arrangements will be made with G.M. Taylor, who recently jumped the Rainbow tunnel, whereby the company will be enabled to resume extensive work through the adit. The Red Star mill is running on good ore. A large number of claims are receiving attention, but the trouble between the leading companies is greatly holding back the district. With the Sixteen to One, Bonanza King and other mines tied up by litigation, with no early prospect of settlement, with the Rainbow handicapped by the loss of it’s tunnel, and with winter at hand, Alleghany is not reflecting the activity that characterized it a few months ago. The miners appear to be all right, but the tactics of the warring owners militate against advancement.
GRASS VALLEY
The Grass Valley district continues to maintain its’ position as the premier quartz gold producer in the state. The North Star Mines Company is producing at the rate of $180,000 per month with eighty stamps in commission. Extensive work is going on below the 4000 level, where the six-foot vein is running about $12 per ton. At the Empire, sinking is about to commence from the 3500 level. The two Mammoth electric pumps have been placed in commission and everything is in readiness for rapid work. The Dana Company has resumed work with a small force of men. The Brunswick shaft is progressing steadily, but it will be several months before any depth will be attained. The Kenosha continues to intersect small high-grade bodies with the shaft going down steadily. The Pennsylvania, Sultana, Idaho-Maryland, and several other properties are producing steadily. The deal for the Eureka has not yet been consummated, but it is reported that it will be carried through in the near future.
SIERRA COUNTY
The important deals are pending in Sierra County, and will probably be consummated before the end of the month. Eastern capitalists are examining the Brush Creek mine and express themselves well pleased with the property. The Brush Creek has a good productive record. But disagreements between stockholders led to its closing. The property is located near the Kate Hardy, where a bonanza strike was recently made. An English syndicate headed by W.A. Wood of London, is negotiating for the Phoenix mine near Sierra City. The Phoenix is a low-grade proposition with immense bodies of such ore to be developed and equipped with a stamp mill. The English capitalists already control the Four Hills and Bunker Hill mines, in the Sierra City district, and are well pleased with the success that has attended their efforts.
PLACER COUNTY
The Ophir district, Placer County, is attracting considerable attention. Operations are to be resumed immediately at the famous Hathaway by a strong company. This was formerly one of the great producers of central California. Work will be prosecuted on an extensive scale. At the Crater, new machinery is being installed and operations conducted systematically. It is reported, that the Crandall has been sold to Colorado capitalists for a large consideration. A number of other properties are receiving attention with several showing well. In the Michigan Bluff section W.H. Fletcher and associates of Los Angeles and Pasadena are preparing for extensive work at the Home Ticket and other properties. These mines are well-known producers and have a bright future.
EL DORADO COUNTY
Articles of incorporation of the El Dorado consolidated mines companies have open filed with the County Clerk of El Dorado County. The capital stock has also been increased from $500,000 to $ 750,000. The company is organized under the laws of Nevada and is composed of Nevada, San Francisco, and southern California people. It is empowered to engage in all kinds of mining as well as other lines, such as the operation of power plants, railways, ect. The company expects to operate a number of properties in El Dorado and is arranging to secure numerous holdings.
SHASTA COUNTY
The Stauffer Chemical Company has landed the celebrated Oro Fino mine, near Shasta, for $10,000 and will at once commence active work. The ore holdings of this mine carry an excellent gold percentage and give excellent signals of continuing to great depth. The Mammoth Copper Company is continuing to spend………..(illegible text)………. -The Bullychoop is about to resume with a large force of workers. This is considered one of the promising properties of the county and has produced considerable gold. The time for the expiration of the truce between the farmers and the smelter operators is rapidly approaching. The Mammoth and Balaklala companies have experts on the plants and botanists in the field. It is expected that the latter will show that much of the damage in the trees has been caused by the neglect of the farmers properly to prune and spray them. November 1, when the truce comes to an end, promises to be an interesting day in the Shasta copper belt.
CALAVERAS COUNTY
The Reiner mine, near Angels Camp, has entered the bedrock in the ancient channel and has opened an excellent body of pay gravel. Pannings thus far have exceeded the expectations and the outlook for excellent production is good. Many southern Californians are interested in the company, which has expended a large amount of money in developing and equipping the property. The Calaveras Copper Company, which recently acquired the Union, mines at Copperopolis, is arranging to commence extensive operations. The smelter and concentrator can easily handle 1,500,000 pounds of copper per month. The Utica, Lightner, Melones, Etna King, and numerous other gold mines are producing steadily. No further talk is heard regarding rumored later troubles.
MONO, ALPINE, INYO.
The announcement by senator Newlands of Nevada to the effect that the Virginia and Truckee Railroad will be extended into Mono, Alpine, and Inyo counties has been halted with joy by mining men in these districts. All that has held back splendid districts in these counties has been the lack of transportation facilities, and with the advent of the Virginia and Truckee the greatest boom in the history of these counties will be inaugurated. Connections will be made with the Bodie and Benton and Tonopah and Goldfield lines. A large number of promising Nevada districts will also be opened by the line.
CONTRA COSTA COUNTY
The farmers of Contra Costa County have requested the supervisors to pass an ordinance against the Mountain Copper Company’s smelter at Martinez, alleging that the escape of fumes is damaging orchards and farms. The board has promised to take steps in the matter, but it is probable that the plants will be incorporated in the expansion plans of the town of Martinez, which will block the plans of the complainants. Considerable bitterness has been aroused by the plan, the farmers maintaining that the town of Martinez will not seek to prevent the escape of the destroying fumes. Accordingly they have filed a protest of the annexation of additional territory by the town. It is unlikely that the protest will be heeded.
 By Michael Miller

04/20/2005  9:57PM

Tomorrow is John Muir’s birthday. His image has been included on the US quarter for the state of California. He is cited as a great and perhaps the first environmentalist. If you want to read something about John Muir rarely written, it is on this web site, somewhere, but I cannot remember where. If you find it, Please make an entry here with the path to find it from Home Page.
 By Michael Miller

03/31/2005  9:34AM

Physicists Take Close Look at Gold’s Atomic Value
LA Times 7/20/95 Page B-2

All that glitters may not be gold, but gold is the most “noble” of all metals. It refuses to react with gases and liquids, which is one reason it can hang around for thousands of years in musty tombs and still shine brightly for those anthropologists (or Pirates) lucky enough to stumble upon it. But exactly what makes gold so standoffish (and hence valuable) has been something of a scientific mystery.

In the current issue of the journal Nature, two physicists from Denmark and Japan suggest that the electrons buzzing around the gold atom’s periphery overlap each other in ways that keep other atoms at a distance.

This same orbital dance allows gold atoms to hold onto each other with a grip sufficient to keep other atoms from breaking them apart.
 By Michael Miller

03/11/2005  7:23PM

A GOLDEN HIGHWAY by C.B. Glasscock, copyright, 1934

“Fortunately my car was old and experiences upon desert trails and mountain roads s well as upon city streets. It could, I felt, almost find its own way to a water hole as a dependable burro would do when its tongue or radiator began to crack with thirst. Frequently I have seen it run ten and twenty-odd miles past the point where its gasoline gauge revealed an alarming 0, while my traveling companion, secretary, cook, memory and wife, jittered silently in the corner of my right eye.
It would, I knew, climb sturdily up the steepest of mountain roads, slide cautiously on its hind quarters down dry creek beds to deserted villages, automatically dodge boys on bicycles, and pause beside old men with a potential gleam of reminiscence in faded blur eyes.
It would stop serenely upon the edge of a precipice to admire the view, or would draw gently toward a curbstone to win a smile from human beauty. It was in no great hurry. It would not stick too closely to the paved ways of speed and commerce when it wished to find its way into ghostly towns where men had worked and loved and laughed and died and helped to build a State and Nation. In short, it was precisely the sort of car in which one should go forth to find a Golden Highway of history, romance, laughter and adventure…..
The Alleghany district contains a hundred scars of the tremendous battles waged by men against mountains. It has been crisscrossed by foot trails, pack trails, freight roads and stage roads. We might ramble there for a week upon roads where we would meet only a mail carrier in a fliver or a 1933-model prospector seeking another of the innumerable gold pockets which have made this region the delight of prospectors and promoters for nearly a century.
Scores of itinerant miners throughout the years have taken ten, twenty, thirty thousand dollars in gold by their own efforts from the scattered rich deposits. A single chunk of ore has brought twenty-seven thousand dollars from the mint. Do not tell a present resident of these hills that he will not find another. They have been discovering new mines here for eighty years. Through North Columbia, North Bloomfield, Moores Flat, Pike City, Orleans Flat, Washington, Minnesota Flat and others have been great, Alleghany has been greater.
The famous Rainbow, which had its own stamp mill working in the ‘50s, once produced sixty thousand dollars in a single day. The Oriental dug seven hundred and thirty-four thousand from an area fourteen by twenty-two feet. The Tightner Mine Company has extracted more than three millions. All that started eighty years ago, but contrary to the history of most of the camps upon our golden highway, it has continued from decade to decade. As late as 1896, when William J. Bryan was first running for president, Thomas J. Bradbury located the tremendously rich Sixteen-to-One ledge fifteen hundred feet down the slope from his own back yard, within one hundred feet of the house where he had lived for twenty-five years. As late as 1912 the old Red Star produced eighty thousand dollars from a pocket of high grade.
Alleghany is also proud of its famous men. John Mackay, who was to become the richest of the bonanza kings upon the Comstock, learned his trade with pick and shovel and single-jack in the practical school of Alleghany’s shafts and tunnels. Fred Bradley, John T. Bradbury, and others famous, have worked in these mines.
Alleghany is unique in its continued complete devotion to mining—its only interest and its only source of revenue. Other old camps have supplemented their interests and revenues by cattle raising, lumbering, and other activities. Not Alleghany. It has always been a mining camp, and will continue to be that or nothing.”
 By Nose For Gold

01/25/2005  8:11PM

During 1927, William (Billy) Simkins wrote a report on the 16:1 mine for Fred Searls, geologist and later President of Newmont Mining. Simkins noted that 70% of the highgrade was found at or near the hanging wall of the vein, but it is a mistake to assume that no development should be done on the footwall. He also noted that there was a tendency to drive raises at angles which lend themselves to easy operation of the scraper (slusher) rather than close following the ore. For this reason, considerable highgrade is still present where thicker portions of the vein are present.
 By Nose For Gold

01/24/2005  11:06AM

Within the northern portion of the 16:1 mine, the North Orebody and the Yellow Jacket orebody, no relation to the Yellow Jacket mine, together produced approximately 37,800 ounces of gold. The Yellow Jacket orebody was only mined to the 1250 level, probably because the rake of the deposit causes it to cross into the Red Star mine, now owned by the 16:1. This leaves a mostly unexplored area between the 1250 and 1500 levels. During a metal detector survey in 1993, 1,000 ounces were discovered and mined from an underhand stope just below the 1500 level along the rake of the Yellow Jacket orebody.
 By Nose For Gold

01/16/2005  9:29PM

One of the more exotic exploration targets at the 16:1 mine is referred to as the lost winzes and is described in a report by C.C. Derby dated 12/9/30. While gravel mining (mining for gold in a Tertiary channel) through the Eureka tunnel in 1907 and 1911 a quartz vein was encountered at the center of the Red Star claim which produced 13,000 ounces of highgrade gold. Very dangerous conditions which included swelling ground and large amounts of water caused the area to be abandoned before all the gold could be removed. The reported production appears legitimate. Attempts to get to this area in 1919 and 1961 resulted in failure probably a result of survey errors. The 1961 attempt was under the direction of Fred Searls, geologist and former President of Newmont Mining.
 By Nose For Gold

01/10/2005  9:07AM

In 1990, the KCJV joint ventured the 16:1 mine with Billiton Minerals, Shell Oil Company. The highest priority exploration target of Billiton was at Chips Flat above the 16:1 owned Rainbow mine which historically produced +150,000 ounces of gold. There are a number of vein junctions as well as extensive carbonate alteration in this area. A logical well thought out exploration program which includes backhoe trenching would have a high probability of producing significant gold from Chips Flat.
 By Nose For Gold

01/02/2005  3:05PM

The largest pocket of gold mined from the 16:1 was from a small zone below the 800 Level between the 16:1 and Tightner Shafts and is credited with 83,200 ounces. Of this total, some 30,000 ounces were obtained from a "pipe" about 1 1/2 ft. in diameter by 40 ft. long. The remaining ounces came from a larger volume of still very rich vein. In 1940, a typical year, 8,471 ounces of gold were produced from 5,635 pounds of ore or 1 1/2 ounces per pound. (This does not include mill production) With only 1/3 of the 16:1 vein developed, potential exists for many good years of gold production.
 By Nose For Gold

12/30/2004  4:24PM

A.D. Foote was a famous mining engineer who for a time was the manager of the Tightner mine, now part of the 16:1. In a 1921 interview, Foote states that they produced 37,500 oz. of gold from a space less than 10 ft. by 10 ft. The ore was so rich they had to cut it up with chisels to get it to the mill. Under his management the Tightner produced 150,000 oz. The stopes from where this gold was recovered have been washed so clean that not even sand remains, but there is more gold in the area.
 By Nose For Gold

12/27/2004  11:45AM

During 1944, Geologist, H.R. Cooke, Jr., submitted his Ph.D. thesis titled "The Distribution of Gold in the Original Sixteen to One Vein" to Harvard University. Cooke developed Association Indices for the distribution of gold. Results of his work demonstrate that the two most important tools for finding highgrade are local knowledge and good geologic mapping. This still holds true today.
 By gfxgold

12/15/2004  9:37PM

I think the Sixteen just found a new revenue source! Dividend checks, framed and ready to hang proudly, next to that specimen of 16 to 1 gold. (Of course, they would be stamped non-negotiable). I bet Rae could sell a lot of them at the UGMM.
 By CAPITALIST

12/15/2004  8:51PM

Hey Rick, you framed a $25 dividend check instead of cashing it is what you wrote below Nose.

Why? I’ll pay you twenty-five dollars if we can meet at the mine office to verify your dividend authenticity, no if it meant more to you than $25 then, it may be worth more to you with age. Why is this “check” so special and does it look special? Maybe I’ll pay you $100 just to have it framed on my wall.

Same offer to you, Nose.
 By Nose For Gold

12/14/2004  12:24PM

Historically the 16:1 has had a staff of engineers and geologists from Stanford, Cal., U. of Nevada and Harvard. Best known of these individuals is Harvard trained geologist and later Director, W.P. Fuller Jr. In an August 29, 1965 letter to the President of the Company, Fuller states:" A comprehensive exploration campaign should, when finances permit, be undertaken to prospect the northern continuation of the entire vein zone. With more than 1 1/2 miles of a major vein system barely touched by mining up to now because of the deep Tertiary cover, and with geologic conditions very similar to the mile already developed by the consolidated 16:1 workings, this exists as one of the most promising areas for development of gold bearing quartz veins in the district."
 By Nose For Gold

12/13/2004  9:15PM

Johan Raadsma presented the results of his study in a report dated 11/91, metal detectors came into use in the mine in 1/92. Metal detectors are just another tool and a good one.
Dividends totaling $1,238,501 had been paid to 1924. From 1903 to 1965 the company paid dividends of $5,750,000.00 I also have my gold dividend cheque.
Gestapo type mine inspectors and government agents have been a problem as long as I can remember.
Concerning gold in the mine, 2/3 of the vein is virgin with very favorable geology, especially to the north.
 By Rick

12/13/2004  7:07PM

Regarding the 1991 situation (and I admit I've never seen nor read the Raadsma Report, so my perspective on this stands as naiive):

I'll bet back then there wasn't the same political pressure for the Sixteen to One to be reincarnated as a PC mine, bent over, grabbing the ankles because MSHA or the California Regional Water Quality "Control" Board or the CDAA saw the chance to make points with the anti-mining-pseudo-environmental-teach-it-but-ignor-the-true-facts-crowd.

In fact, I know it.

As for dividends, I have a dividend check for $25, paid to me from a very famous hard-rock gold-in-quartz-mine framed on my wall, worth more to me as a bastion of perseverence than the cash value it represented had I have stuck it in the bank.
 By CAPITALIST

12/13/2004  6:04PM

Hey Nose, tell me more.

If Radsma wrote his report in 1991, that was before the Sixteen to One found the importance of metal detectors. Miller has written and all the miners have talked on TV about detectors and its significance in finding gold. They want to build one for this gold deposit. How will this affect the Radsma report? Also, what other reliable history backs up the potential of making money with this company? Why do you think there is gold left that can be mined?
 By Nose For Gold

12/12/2004  1:09PM

According to a statistical study done in 1991 by Johan Raadsma, Mining Engineer and former 16:1 Mine Manager, who was born in South Africa and educated in Western Australia, at a sustained production rate of 125 tons per day / 30,000 tons per year, the company would achieve the ranks of a Tier 2, dividend paying gold producer.
Although this was only a statistical study, based on present mining costs and the favorable geology of the northern portion of the mine, the figures presented by Raadsma appear logical. This does not include the profits from the sale of waste rock.
 By Michael Miller

08/22/2004  12:46AM

MINING PROGRESS UPDATE
For
THE MEETING OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Of the
ORIGINAL SIXTEEN TO ONE MINE, INC.

MARCH 13, 1997

The last board meeting introduced new headings that we were eager to begin and showed our progress with our long-term advancements. Generally, the mine’s activities have followed closely the goals presented last time, but as might be guessed, our hopes for large high-grade pockets have come up empty so far. This is not to say that the development work has been in vain however; our active headings have exposed some encouraging geology and Mother Nature is continuously revealing surprises and forcing us to re-evaluate our interpretations. Each heading is described below in terms of advancement since the last meeting, and there are also further goals presented to take us through the next quarter.

The 26105 Raise that was started on November 10th holed through to the 2400 level at the end of January after 125 feet of progress. This Raise is now part of the main ventilation path and allows full air circulation through the 2600 level. As it advanced, we encountered what appeared to be the 16-K vein split about 50 feet up from the drift. A week after reaching the 2400 level, a new raise, the 26105-K, was started at this split by Tony Langdon and Jay Noble.
The raise is now about 120 feet up what is certainly the K. The geology of the face is encouraging, and the miners are seeing the vein begin to roll over to a more southerly dip. Because of the direction of the vein, they are not likely on the pay shoot below the 2233-K underhand, but by advancing a drift at the 2400 level into the K, we hope to find just where that shoot occurs. Rather than run a crosscut from the 24105 Raise into the footwall to intersect the K-vein, as was discussed last time, the crosscut will branch off from the 2400 level just north of the 24105 and will gradually turn into the K-vein about 30 feet north of the 26105-K.
This approach has several objectives. First, it will let the miners continue working off the 2400 level rather than transport equipment all the way down to the 2600. This will save time in moving both men and rock to and from the heading. Also, it will allow tramming along the 2400 and will reduce the cost of hoisting rock from the 2600. In support of this effort, Billy Joe has been rehabilitating the 2400 track and mucking out the drift for the past two months. He has now begun the crosscut and has encountered the K-vein. Surprisingly, the vein split is only 2 feet off the drift contrary to the 40-foot estimate from geological cross sections. This allows for a shorter drift to reach the raise and further outlines the pinch zone on the K between the 2200 and 2400. However, this drift is an exploration heading in its own right: it will continue past the raise to follow the K and discover the 2233-K ore shoot noted above.

The 2203 heading, manned by Ray Standring and Adrayan Aguirre, among others, is our “Whopper Country” program. Beginning on December 23rd, an initial winze was sunk to 50 feet and then drifting began to the north and south. The north wing acts as a slusher station and equipment storage, and the south wing extends about 35 feet toward the Whopper pay shoot. Even though we are not in the shoot yet, the surrounding geology has virtually every indicator of significant gold deposition. A new raise was started near the end of this drift that holed through to the 2200 level about 20 feet south of the original winze. A new wing has been started off this raise and is progressing south. Some visible gold was the reason for the placement of the raise and there has been subsequent gold in the small wing. Also, all the rock coming out of this heading is bound for the mill and should yield a few ounces. This drifting will soon be curtailed, but the northern wing will then be extended, possibly as far as the ’49 Winze.

Sam Griffith’s drifting on the 2600 level has continued and has gained 100 feet since mid-December. There were problems with the ground in this heading, as the 21-fault zone intersects the vein at this elevation. About 75 feet of timber sets were required for support and this reduced the footage otherwise possible. We may have encountered a vein split in the past week, and if this is the 16-K junction, it has moved down-dip from the intersection in the 26105 Raise. This discovery is important because it gives us more geological information and indicates favorable conditions for gold deposition. It also provides us with the clearest, farthest south vein junction and will allow us to better fill in the geological picture up-dip. Another 165 feet will put Sam underneath a known ore shoot on the 2400 level, one that will hopefully extend down to his drift.

The 2239 heading was started from a small spur off the 2200 level just north of the ’83 Hoist on what is likely the M-vein. It was opened up near the end January with a 40-foot raise that will be used as a manway. This raise paid off with 55 ounces of high-grade after only a few rounds, and all the rock coming out is ore. Drifting will continue so that a second raise can be started to serve as an ore chute. Once this is done, a new drift will be started above the 2200 level, connecting the two raises and following the new vein. In the last week, John Covert has continued mining here by starting the second raise and will begin the upper drift sometime next week.

Metal detecting has continued in the northern half of the mine, with 10 ounces coming out of the 1109 stope just south of the Tightner Shaft. Also, some small block mining is being done in the 1317 and 1319 stopes a little farther to the south and adjacent to the Ballroom. This was just started the week of March 3rd, so the potential is still unclear. A new M.D. program is in the works, whereby every crew will have a map section on which they will work and note gold, so the crews do not overlap so much and cover more ground more efficiently. Currently, however, the M.D. crew has been reduced to cover all our active headings.

The mill has been running almost continuously on daily shifts with a consistent ore grade of about ¼ ounce per ton. Since the last week of February, we have been running 12-hour shifts and on March 5th, we attained 14 tons per hour. Right now, our efforts have concentrated on replenishing the ore supply on the surface in order to keep the mill running until our next big pocket. One source of high-grade mill rock is our trommel program. Currently, we have one trommel running at various known ore piles around the upper levels, especially the 800, 1000, and 1100 between the 16-to-1 and Tightner Shafts. We now have a second trommel being built and have plans for a third. These machines have been averaging 4-5 ounces per day with usually two miners running them. As one ore pile is processed, the trommel is moved on to a new location. It works by sorting out ¼ inch and smaller pebbles that are then run through a sluice box to catch fine gold. The larger material is scanned with a metal detector and signals are picked out by hand. In this way, virtually the entire ore pile is sorted, inspected, and sent to either the mill or gold sales.

Our future activities will include a new small block target, the 2050-D Stope, that will be examined within a month. A new chute was installed in the 2213 and a raise will be extended through to the 2050 to accommodate this mining. Trommel work will continue, but will hopefully be reduced in favor of high-grade production that would reduce the amount of milling necessary. Respectfully, Michael M. Miller

What an interesting account to read. I enjoy my reports to the board. And now I read it years later.
 By SCOOP

07/01/2004  10:15AM

Two Ways to Look for Gold
San Francisco Chronicle September 2, 1980
By Stephen Magagnini
Gold mining on a small scale is relatively hassle-free: “Pick a river, any river, any place on that river,” advises one pan-and-dredge salesman.
But the more grandiose your golden dream, the denser the thicket of local, state and federal agencies you’ve got to penetrate, as two 20th century Argonauts, Mike and Michael Miller, have discovered.
By coincidence, these romantics, who bear the same name but are unrelated and a little wary of one another, have both invested a lot of time, sweat and money re-activating long-dormant commercial mines – Mike was jailed in the process – and both have yet to hit paydirt.
Both are 38 years old, both are fascinated by gold, both are gamblers who have done their homework, hired geologists and staked their careers and fortunes in pursuit of buried treasure.
There the similarities end.
Mike Miller, a native Californian, is secretive, cautious and shuns publicity. He lives in a free-flow log cabin he built for himself down a dirt road not far from one of his mines.
He had mixed success running restaurants and selling real estate in Santa Barbara before he “got tired of dealing with people.” In 1974 he began scouting gold properties in Sierra County’s Alleghany Mining District, five square miles that contain some of the richest gold deposits in California but have hardly been worked since World War II.
The district’s only active mine, the Oriental (a 10-man operation), has been among the largest gold producers in the United States over the past five years.
In 1975, Mike bought the Morning Glory Mine and leased the Osceola Mine. The Morning Glory, which opened in 1891, had been submerged in water for some 40 years and several of the tunnels had caved in.
But there’s a gold-bearing quartz vein anywhere from half-an-inch to a yard wide that runs through the hill at a 30-degree angle, said Mike’s partner, Tom Woodfin. The trick is to follow the vein until it leads you to the gold.
“This area here is what they call a ‘pocket area,’ which means you can be following along the vein and not find anything,” Woodfin said. “ You go in, you drill holes, you load them up with dynamite, you light the fuse at night and you go home and you never know what you’re going to find the next morning – it could be a streak of gold as thick as your finger or it could be nothing. I’ve been in a lot of old mines where I found gloves, picks, shovels… like they just didn’t come back the next day.”
Steve Rosenbaum, Mikes’ geologists, compared gold mining in the Alleghany to hunting for “a raisin in a pudding. There hasn’t been a good correlation between any element or mineral that will increase the halo (the chance of finding gold).
“Eighty percent of the gold in this district came from veins 100 feet from serpentenite is no guarantee there’s gold to follow.
Miller and Woodfin pumped out the water from the Morning Glory, reconstructed the 300-foot tunnels and built a wooden bridge over a creek so trucks could haul the rock tonnage from the mineshaft to the rest of the 40-acre property.
But in November of 1977, Mike was arrested and charged with illegally using federal timber, doing “ substantial” work without a permit, dumping material into the creek that threatened fish and plant life and causing a barrier in the waterway that prevented run-off.
He was jailed and bail was set at $1000 on the misdemeanor charges, which were advanced by the state Department of Fish and Game.
Twice, Miller was prosecuted.
The first time, the j8ury was split 10to 2 in favor of conviction, said Sierra County District Attorney Jim Dremman; the second time, Miller was acquitted. Miller has since sued Dremman, Sierra County, the Fish and Game Department and the federal government for $6 million, charging illegal trespass, abuse of process, malicious prosecution, conspiracy and violation of his civil rights.
Last September, Miller and Woodfin finally got back on track and rehabilitated the main shaft. They plan to hire a dozen men to excavate between 15and 30 feet of rock a day.
Mike won’t say exactly how much money he’s invested so far – “less than $1 million”—or predict how much gold he expects to mine. “If we could match the production of the past (two ounces of gold for each foot) I’d be very happy,” he said.
Mike doesn’t know if he’ll be able to start production before he runs out of money. The state Department of Corporations prevented him from setting up a limited partnership of small investors “in a misguided attempt to protect widows and orphans from bad gold investments,” he said. “I was going to pay dividends in gold.”
For the last six months, Miller and Woodfin have been working day and night burrowing into the mine and examining mineral samples under the microscope. “We’ve taken a lot of risks but I think they’ve been calculated,” Miller said. “We watch out for the ‘foolkiller’ – we don’t go in without our hard hats.”
Mike and his family spent one summer living in a cabin without any electricity, and recently ordered several 100-pound sacks of beans. “You can live for six months on beans,” he said. “We could run out of money and even that might not stop us…”
The other Miller, Michael, hasn’t run out of money despite bureaucrats, floods, quicksand, and most recently, a fire in the tunnel that threatened to came in his mine.
Before he started the Miller Mining Co., the flamboyant Brooklynite – who attended New York Law School at night – practiced law for a dozen years, argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and “was successful in the academic sense, but not the financial sense.”
Michael went west in 1975 and discovered he had the Midas touch, at least when it came to producing television shows. IN three years, he produced a series of “self-help” shows on such topics as sewing and ethnic cooking he says grossed $80 million and netted him in excess of $10 million.
“IN 1978, I started looking at the tings to do with cash and was convinced gold was the way to go,” he said.
Michael toured Calaveras County in a Roll-Royce until he settled on the 100-year-old Altaville and Calaveras Central Mines. He lives in a Bel-Air mansion, jets up and down the state in a Cessna Citation and has autographed pictures of neighbors like Shawn Cassidy, Steve Martin and Suzanne Somers hanging in his office.
Michael thrives on publicity – reporters are handed a glossy package of Miller Mining Co. reprints – because he wants to “establish a market position – I want to build this into the gold company in California.”
Without the environmental restrictions, Michael said he could have opened his mines for $2 million. But the required settling ponds, water discharge plant and environmental impact report ran the bill to $6 million -- $3 million of it Michael’s. “So they’ve upped the ante considerably,” he said. “If I had bought gold futures contracts at $180 an ounce, I could have made $10 million on a $250,000 investment, but what fun is it?
“IN August (1979) I had to gamble on two factors: One, is the gold down there, and two, will gold go up? People said I was a lunatic. It took a big set of nuts to put the money up.”
Besides the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration and the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Fish and Game Department and state air and water quality control boards, Michael had to contend with the suspicious citizens of Calaveras County. For months, the county threatened to revoke his building permit over supposed water and noise problems.
Ultimately, however, the citizenry realized that Michael, who has hired 105 persons, was doing the county – whose economy was suffering as a result of few housing starts and failing timber industry – more good than harm.
“Our independent… report indicates our operation will be responsible for 650 to 900 service and retail jobs – stores, restaurants, etc.,” Michael said. His payroll is $150,000 a month and each dollar generates $7 worth of business in the county.
Oliver Garcia, mayor of Angels Camp, remarked, “everybody wants it (the mine) as long as you don’t put it in their backyard. We like to see people gainfully employed. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.”
Once Michael had extricated himself from the bureaucratic quicksand, he ran into the real thing.
After his miners, averaging 10 feet a day, had bored about 489 feet into the Altaville Mine, they found themselves below the waterline. First there were floods and then there was quicksand.
“At one point I fell in up to my wais t and they had to pull me out with a tractor,” Michael said.
Then one August afternoon, when Michael was within tasting distance of the ancient river channel’s bedrock with its fabled “paystreak,” disaster struck.
Sparks from a cutting torch ignited the bales of straw used to fill up voids in the walls about 550 feet into the tunnel. Underground fires are extremely dangerous and difficult to put out; in 1922, 47 miners lost their lives in a fire that caved in the Argonaut Mine in Jackson.
Fifteen minutes after the fire started, 14,000 gallons of water were dumped down a drill hole above the fire. That didn’t work. The next day, 20 tons of liquid carbon dioxide were poured into the tunnel. That didn’t do it. Neither did 55-gallon drums of foam with an expansion ration of 100 to 1.
Benny Licari, Michaels 28-year-old project manager, said there was enough oxygen in the bale hay to keep it burning for months.
After more than a week of frustration, Michael’s miners poured a bulkhead of cement on either side of the fire, than plugged the smoldering area with 25,000 cubic yards of grout.
The next sep will be to drill through the cement.
No one was hurt in the fire, but production has been delayed by at least a month. “It don’t take a mathematical genius to say it’s (cost us) over $250,000,” Licari said.
Before the fire, Licari said “We hit a little pocket of it (gold). We took about a 40-pound sample and recovered a nugget a twelfth of an inch in diameter.”
Norm Brown, a Sacramento engineer who earns $400 a day as a mining consultant, said Miller “really is a pioneer. Michael’s got a lot of guts. There will be more like him. He only has to bring out 12 ounces of gold per day to cover his costs.”
Michael expects to do a lot better than that. His miners, using diesel-powered buggies, will be able to remove 1000 tons of ore a day – each ton yielding a quarter-ounce of gold, for the nine-year life of the mine, Michael said.
Since his existing sand and gravel operation already covers about 60 percent of his costs, he stands to clear bout $200,000 a day – if the paystreak is there.
“I have no doubt it’s there,” Michael said. “Between you and me, it’s an absolute sure thing.”

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